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"The Good Soldiers"

Everyone's on pins and needles to get their hands on the big book coming out today. But they should consider grabbing a different book -- "The Good Soldiers," by my colleague David Finkel. It's the most impressive piece of literary journalism I've read since...hmmm...maybe David Remnick's "Lenin's Tomb." (Reserving the right to supplement and amend my remarks.) I think this book is gonna last. There will be inevitable comparisons by reviewers to Michael Herr's "Dispatches." Finkel tells the story of an Army battalion setting up an outpost and trying to survive in Eastern Baghdad as part of the Surge. The reporting is detailed and intrepid; the writing is exquisite.

Here's one paragraph, just to give you a sample of how David unspools the narrative. He is telling us how soldiers are getting blown up and shot seemingly at random. But sometimes the bullets and bombs miss, thank God -- or thank whatever.

Really, how else to explain Stevens' split lip? Or what happened to a captain named Al Walsh when a mortar hit outside of his door early one morning as he slept? In came a piece of shrapnel, moving so swiftly that before he could wake up and take cover, it had sliced through his wooden door, sliced through the metal frame of his bed, sliced through a 280-page book called Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife, sliced through a 272-page book called Buddhism Is Not What You Think , sliced through a 128-page book called On Guerilla Warfare , sliced through a 360-page book called Tactics of the Crescent Moon , sliced through a 176-page page Calvin and Hobbes collection, sliced through the rear of a metal cabinet holding those books, and finally was stopped by a concrete wall. And the only reason that Walsh wasn't sliced was that he happened in that moment to be sleeping on his side rather than on his stomach or back, as he usually did, which meant that the shrapnel passed cleanly through the spot where his head usually rested, missing him by an inch. Dazed, ears ringing, unsure of what had just happened, and spotted with a little blood from being nicked by the exploding metal fragments of the ruined bed frame, he stumbled out to the smoking courtyard and said to another soldier, "Is anything sticking out of my head?" And the answer, thank whatever, was no.

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 15, 2009; 8:54 AM ET
 
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Comments

good thoughts to my wife's cousin's son, and many of my students assigned to duty that part of the world. Life may be fairly characterized as a continuous series of near misses.

Posted by: -jack- | September 15, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

rt: glad you enjoyed the window link the other night. I'm partial to the CC & TLPA version as well.

Posted by: -jack- | September 15, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Joel, it's Tuesday... Tuesday morning.

Seriously, thanks for the new kit. THis weekend, I spoke at length with a very happy father of a returning first tour paratrooper.

The dad was a vet and could imagine the experiences, but the son had waited til he was back home from Afghanistan to give any details and those included the loss of his best friend in action.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Shriek, thanks for that link, I had classes in the Stacie building. I remember when I went a lot of discussion about safety and was always cautious in the tunnels but I also recall the Women's Groups shutting down a proposed walk home service for people like me who would walk alone done the canal. They considered it sexist to suggest women needs assistance/help from men.

Sadly I think no matter what safeguards you take there will always be crazies out there that will find a way to commit their heinous crimes - the cameras at least speed up the process of identifying those responsible. Along with other safety measures perhaps these incidents can be kept to the rare exception, not that that is any consolation to the victims or their family and friends.

Powerful paragraph Joel.

Posted by: dmd3 | September 15, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Long-time boodle reader. Haven't had the inclination to write before now.

I know Joel has to support his Post colleague and I'm sure Finkel's book is as "exquisite" as the referenced sample graph.

But I encourage all to consider Dexter Filkins' "The Forever War."

I've read collections of WW2 reporting (Bill Mauldin, Ernie Pyle, among others), Herr's Dispatches, and other war reporting books. Filkins' book is by far the best of the bunch.

Posted by: thekudzu | September 15, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, Joel, but that's an inferior piece of writing David has there. It would be much better if it read:

"...sliced through a 280-page book called Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife, sliced through a 272-page book called Buddhism Is Not What You Think , sliced through a 128-page book called On Guerilla Warfare , sliced through a 360-page book called Tactics of the Crescent Moon, sliced through a 176-page page Calvin and Hobbes collection, sliced through a 352-page book called Captured by Aliens, sliced through a 367-page book called The Grand Idea, sliced through a three-volume collection of Why Things Are, More Why Things Are, and Son of Why Things Are: Rocky Balboa's Revenge, sliced through It Looks Like a President Only Smaller, sliced through Penthouse XVI Collected Letters About Nurses, sliced through the rear of a metal cabinet holding those books..."

Now that there is a piece of writin'. Nobel-worthy, methinks.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

But what about Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War"? I mean, sure, it's fiction, so you might discount it because of that. Don't you think that's being a little unfairly factist?

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 15, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

thekudzu, Welcome--or is it 'happy germination?'

So much great journalism out there. The New Yorker's "Eight Days: Behind the scenes of the financial crisis." by James B. Stewart kept me up last night. Whether the Treasury, Fed, and other big financial institutions handled the Lehman Brothers crisis is debatable, but the feverishness of Lehman's last days is palpable. Especially when you're reading it early in the morning.

Iraq is leaving a substantial written legacy. Could it be our best-written war?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 15, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to read the Filkins book -- good suggestion.

Posted by: joelache | September 15, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Hi, thekudzu. Feel free to be as invasive as you are inclined.

Crazy day ahead. Like the paragraph. It is interesting that the digesting and reporting on the surge is happening so soon after; I usually think years instead of months of sorting-through before publication.

Posted by: Yoki | September 15, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

*passing Grover waves to thekudzu* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 15, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and it probably should also have sliced through a 916-page book called Alpha Squad 7: Lady Nocturne: A Tek Jansen Adventure.

If David is at all interested in verisimilitude, anyway.

Or wants to get his name on late-night television. As do we all.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

jack -

for headphones:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeWH1wP9tM8

Bonus coverage:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSed1K-QNMc

Yes, sir.

Sad that Mudge can't listen to these things. I thought of him on the second unit.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Dave, Iraq couldn't begin to approach either WWI or WWII for literary output or quality of output. Not possible, not conceivable.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

But the really important question is: WHICH Calving and Hobbes collection? Some writers just aren't very detail oriented.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

What is it, Weed? Even the title is blocked.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

We used to joke, Yoki, that Bush needed to REALLY just pronounce victory and then leave. He got the first part done, but then there was mission creep, or it seemed like a good thing to stay, so, then we discovered mission sinkhole.

Years later, I would be shocked if people haven't come to the mighty realization of "WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING?!"

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

That would have to be the three-volume The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0740748475/calvinandhobb-20), don't you think, yello?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

At 176 pages, it's certainly not the complete collected C&H. I'm thinking it's the collection of Sunday comics.

I just read the review of Dan Brown's latest tree-killer. It has Freemasons. You want Freemasons? Read the Illuminatus trilogy, cleverly titled "Illuminatus!".

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 15, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

How about "sliced most of the way through a copy of Atlas Shrugged, and then toppled the volume right onto the spot where his head usually rested, missing him by an inch."

The Filkins may be very good. It bothers me that its title is the same as an award-winning book published earlier. I know I wouldn't allow MY book to glom a title that way. If I had a book. With a title.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

mudge,
That would be my choice as an ablative armor alternative.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I should have said "At ONLY 176 pages...". The complete collected C&H is formed of two big thick volumes. It's sitting in ScienceKid#2's desk. ScienceKid#1 has the complete collected Far Side. I try to raise these kids right, reading the classics.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 15, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I am certain that the collected works of Robert Anton Wilson are a core part of Dan Brown's research library. I particularly like the five-sided diagram of how all the major New World Order ruling cabals are organized, Masons, Elders of Zion, Trilateral Commission, etc. They're all there unaware of how the strings are REALLY being pulled.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, it is a very good recording of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Brittain doing

Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff! The song reminds me of your writing and style and humor, for that matter.

In fact the lead singer actually looks a bit like you but is lacking the aura of "the mudge" total package.

Posted yesterday was their version of the Goo the Bad and the Ugly (great theme song for boodle)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ba1e9GkI4c
is their very funny version of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forever_War

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

yellojkt, What???!@?!? where is Major League Baseball?

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Mines and IEDs make a person think a person think of luck as a real force.

When I was in Yugoslavia we had our first mine strike three days after arrival and before the last group had even left home (you can imagine the effect that had on the departure). Some ingenious basterd had dug out sideways from a crater to place an antitank mine under the pavement. A local guide in a jeep drove nearly over the same spot, but the first M113 set it off, seriously injuring the driver.

Months later the opposite happened. On a gravel road an antitank mine had been buried deep (3'or 4'). That deep, the pressure has to be exactly over the mine. So this time, two M113s passed over the same spot, but a light jeep set it off. That driver lost both legs.

Then there was the very, very lucky junior officer that set off an anti-personnel mine with the side of his boot. This type was the size of a can of salmon and nearly undetectable (PROM 1? So long ago. Nicknamed the toe-popper). He was back on the job the next day.

Posted by: engelmann | September 15, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

After years of doubts about computers and credit card security I have begun ordering books online. The big difference is, in a bookstore the number of pages and copyright date are not a big secret, as they seem to be at Amazon. I have to do other difficult Google searches to find out. Sometimes Wikipedia has an entry with the copyright date. Number of pages is more obscure. Lots of books sound great but at 190 pages are they worth the cost?

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Jumper, no one reads Atlas Shrugged anymore. The only way it would work in that graf is if it said: "...and finally sliced about halfway through a 9-17-page copy of Atlas Shrugged, unopened and still in its immaculate cellophane wrapper -- a present given to him by an eccentric uncle named Phineas-- where the shrapnel finally exhausted itself agains the steely resolve of humorless, boring, implacable John Galt."

Then, sure, go with it.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Ha, I thought about adding the explanation about the cracked relative who sent the thing.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Tim, I sincerely hope you had nothing to do with this:

"Hey, George, Did you just see a mouse float by with a BB in its ass?"

http://www.neatorama.com/2009/09/09/nasa-levitates-mouse-using-magnetic-fields/

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Great clip from the new "Twilight" movie series:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8245165.stm

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

jumper, check out www.reiters.com ... if you can find the book there, they will give you what you want to know. The software developers just don't quite have search yet, so you have to be a bit devilish, but you will get your info.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

BTW, Joel, sorry about the shameless plug.

I can make it worse...

Grab a book at Reiters, then walk up the block to Washington Deli and get the best (and also not expensive at all) Turkey sandwich ... all the way, and sit outside and enjoy the fall days, while they last! 20th and K, NW.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Read the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society during my travels yesterday. Did I miss the warning to wear water proof mascara? For those few boodlers who still haven't read it, do.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | September 15, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I think I'm having a stroke. I keep seeing a ghostly pale blue parenthesis lying on its side appearing on the side of the screen every now and then. Anybody else? Do I need to be rushed to the hospital?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Do you see deer, as well?

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

It's only when you see close bracket that you have to be concerned, for then you have been visited by the Grim Copy Editor.

Posted by: engelmann | September 15, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, chant the lotus sutra and all will be well:

http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=3297

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Sutra

Posted by: DNA_Girl | September 15, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I just discovered a magical switch. I found out WaPo pages tend to slow my PC WAY down. I noticed them demanding 100% of my CPU resources. I noticed a Mercedes Benz ad using Adobe Flash trying to play some demanding graphic and in Firefox Tools Addons clicking on "Shockwave Flash" gives an option to disable. My CPU is thanking me.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, it's the stupid ad for the Mercedes E-Class. I was gonna buy one but now they have annoyed me too much, I ain't buying anymore.

BTW gas is still too cheap, at least in the US. All the bloody ads during the football games last night were for humongous pick-up trucks. Have NA manufacturers learned nothing from the last crash in sales?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | September 15, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I can barely remember the boray pre hagofen, let alone the Lotus Sutra. That bad boy is 27 chapters long.

Is there some way to turn that damn blue oscillating parentheses thing off? I'm not buying any freaking Mercedes, I can tell you that.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

'Zactly, Jumper, it's the Mercedes ad's "Intelligent Cruise Control" thingy, although it seems it's not intelligent enough to bring the car along with it to the bottom of the page. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 15, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

FYI, Bill and Barack just had lunch at a little bistro called Il Mulino in Greenwich Village. They had fish, pasta and sald, and split the bill.

I think that's nice.

I wonder if they had trouble getting a table. Probably not. They went early, missed the lunch rush.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

At least Task Manager proved to me that the top of the page is not watching cartoons while we are down here.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

They can probably write it off if they talked business.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

They had salted fish? In the Village???

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 15, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I hate to get all "official" and in-your-face and all, but we really need to have Cassandra and CqP check in.

*getting ready to send out St. Bernards with kegs of green tea under their chins*

*sigh* The children never call.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Rockin' good news: Cuomo to charge BOFA execs
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nys-cuomo-to-charge-b-of-a-over-merrill-ap-2009-09-14

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

More rockin' good news:
http://www.metro.us/us/article/2009/09/15/07/1015-82/index.xml
Lehman's Fuld in deepness

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Hope these fellows know that clouds are hard...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32845270/ns/technology_and_science-space/

DLD

Posted by: DLDx | September 15, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

America is in denial -- we are in a Holy War on Islam --23 % of the World's population.

The glamor of war -- supporting our American Heroes while they invaded and occupied a sovereign country and causing the murder of over 1.3 Million Iraqi citizens.

Creating over 4 Million orphans over 2 Million displaced and leaving Cluster Bombs and Depleted Uranium ???????????????

All illegal based on lies -- http://tinyurl.com/ospygh

America is in denial -- we are in a Holy War on Islam --23 % of the World's population.

Everyone in the US Military is a War Criminal ---------- but does that make all Americans War Criminals --- guilty of bringing a Holocaust to Iraq ?????????????

http://www.uruknet.de/?p=37749

Posted by: mathewneville | September 15, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Maybe if you recited it before sipping the wine...

Posted by: DNA_Girl | September 15, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I'd avoid using those links, folks...

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 15, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Ok, someone please tell me I didn't drag that in on my shoes.

DLD

Posted by: DLDx | September 15, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

No Front Page Alert yet...

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 15, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

funny, DNA girl.

Posted by: -bia- | September 15, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

CqP reporting here, Sir Cur (le) Mudgeon.

No moonflowers but I am glad that others took up that banner.

Riot of zinnia in vulgar glory: maroon next to deep purple next to magenta next to lime next to rosy-pink....higglety pigglety is the way to garden.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | September 15, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

mathewneville, I think there's something wrong with your keyboard.

Heard a really good interview on NPR this morning with Benjamin Tupper on his book, "Welcome to Afghanistan: Send More Ammo."

And one with Jon Krakauer regarding his new book about the late Pat Tillman, NFL star turned solider who was killed by friendly fire there.

Good stuff.

A question: does Dan Brown's new book have any significant plot twists around the Georgetown Metro stop?

bc

Posted by: -bc- | September 15, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

DVDs have arrived. Roberto Rossellini's "The Flowers of St. Francis" and Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood".

Thinking of Japanese mayhem, "Khubilai Khan's Lost Fleet" by James Delgado is on its way, thanks to a sale at University of California Press.

http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/11418.php

Along those lines, a news story says a Johns Hopkins student fatally wounded an intruder at his house. The student's weapon was a samurai sword.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 15, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

That Il Mulino place is tres expensive. The online menu doesn't even have prices.

http://www.ilmulino.com/menu.html

I try to eat at places Obama goes to but the guy is trying to bankrupt me. We went to Table 52 in Chicago (where Barry took Michelle for Valentines). I haven't even booked a table at Blue Hill in New York yet and now I have follow him to the Village for some pricey red sauce place.

I understand stimulating the economy, but this is ridiculous. Couldn't he and Bill have gone to Johns of Bleecker Street instead?

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

THe only thing I really understood in the last 15 posts is "red sauce."

I am the company moron.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Hi bia, CqP, faxing y'all herbal tea to soothe back-to-college jangled nerves...

Posted by: DNA_Girl | September 15, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

The Beavertail kiosk in the Byward Market is quite affordable yello, if you are in the mood for Presidential fried pastry.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | September 15, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

CP,
Zinnias seem under-appreciated. Great colors, grow readily. Another great flower from Mexico, along with cosmos, marigolds, dahlias, some Salvia species.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 15, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

DNAg. Just what the goddess ordered. Thank you so much.

RT -- the zinnias will let you understand them. Just riotous flowers who refuse to stand at attention in soldierly rows of monodot collors. The poor little begonias who are drafted thusly....sad, so sad. I do not think you can eat them: neither begonias nor zinnias. However, you may eat nasturtium blossoms or even day lilies. Good in salad, the nasturtiums. Day lily blooms can be lightly drench and quick fried. Like squash blossoms.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | September 15, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Jeez, yello, the guy went to Five Guys, didn't he? You can look their menu up on the Internet, but I can tell you right now, the small fries are $2.59 but feed five people.

Thank you, CqP. I trust you are reasonably well and healthy and teaching and suchlike, and the Hellespontsman is also doing well?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I was actually ahead of the curve on Five Guys. The original in Alexandria, not the one on the south side of the Mall where he takes Joe. I have to say that H3ll Burger was reasonably priced as well which is another place he took Biden. I see a trend. The Veep gets burgers and ex-presidents get white tableclothes.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

DotC, I was just thinking how much I enjoyed one of my new Salvias this morning and took some photos.

http://dmdgarden.blogspot.com/

Posted by: dmd3 | September 15, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I think the Georgetown Metro stop leads direct to the Alamo basement. However, Mr. Langdon is about to put Suitland on the map.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

dmd,
Next time I'm in Ottawa I am definitely getting some beavertail.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Oh dear. Dan Brown. Thud. Clunk.

Posted by: Yoki | September 15, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, that may be the single best book review ever written, anywhere, any time, by anybody. Pithy. Comprehensive. Polite yet disdainful. It leaves the reader fulfilled, and leaves no questions unanswered.

*standing O*

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Well, I went to the Post Office in person to put my quarterly estimated tax payments through the inside the office slots.

As Yoki would so prophetically say ... Thud. Clunk.

*sigh*

Posted by: -ftb- | September 15, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I've got pretty low standards as a thriller reader, but Ive got standards. I read Digital Fortress, Deception Point and Angels and Demons when they came out in pocket book. I found each book less interesting than the previous one so I didn't buy The DaVinci Code. Imagine my surprise with the success of TDVC. I finally read it a while back and it is as bad as A&D was. Total utter carp.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | September 15, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

DoC -- We can begin the Zinnia Appreciation Society, with modified chapters extolling the other Mexican beauties.

Mudge -- teaching apace, yes. Same stuff with new faces. Glad I still like doing this. HellespontMan taking break from swimming but will dive in,in say, late October. He grows taller; I like being shorter and under his wingspan when he thinks to hug me. Dots continue in the gradual school mode. Edumificating themselves. Where ever did those ideas come from?

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | September 15, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

For some reason I was thinking of Dan Brown and the author of the Left Behind series
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_Behind_%28series%29
at the same time, and it dawned on me that Brown may be envious of the $ that accrued. Religio-fiction is a real but unnamed (until now?) genre, and the Left Behind series sold some 65 million copies... both somewhat anti-Catholic, so Brown gets some overlap there.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't want to do same ol', same ol' as a writer. If I concoct a set of nominally pro-Catholic, pro-Satan mystery novels and spice it up with a little Satanic sex and one-world government politics, do you think I could get part of the Dan Brown/Tim LaHaye market? -- you know, because the readers would want to do research, Know Thy Enemy, and all that. Perhaps my Satan-worshipping detective could be on a mission to find and deal with the virtuous twerp whose sanctified prayers destroyed the detective's demon partner. Never liked the guy, but you have to take care of your partner. Do you think anybody would notice that the plot is plagiarized from the Maltese Falcon? I wonder if my complete lack of knowledge of my subject matter would stand in the way of success. Probably the least of my impediments.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 15, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

What I really want to do is to present the plot and results of an Agatha Christie novel as a scientific paper, testing the proposition that "the butler did it -- it's always the butler."

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 15, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Tim, can I be part of the background crowd at Ricks in your story? Just a bit part. I can be one of Ugarte's associates.

Anyway, why bother creating great characters when they are out there for the taking.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

You could call that Brown/LeHaye series "The Pope's Behind," Tim.

Now here's a really terrible idea just ripe for becoming the next new wildly blown-out instantly-ready-for-demogoguery topic: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/14/AR2009091403308.html?hpid=topnews

Yep. EPA-run Fetal Death Panels. Go for it, Glenn Beck.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Come, Bowers, it's time to go, this place is beginning to resemble a mortuary.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

You are a funny Boodle.

Posted by: Yoki | September 15, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

This just in: Stanley Plumly named Poet Laureate of Maryland.

Wildflower
by Stanley Plumly

Some--the ones with fish names--grow so north
they last a month, six weeks at most.
Some others, named for the fields they look like,
last longer, smaller.

And these, in particular, whether trout or corn lily,
onion or bellwort, just cut
this morning and standing open in tapwater in the kitchen,
will close with the sun.

It is June, wildflowers on the table.
They are fresh an hour ago, like sliced lemons,
with the whole day ahead of them.
They could be common mayflower lilies of the valley,

day lilies, or the clustering Canada, large, gold,
long-stemmed as pasture roses, belled out over the vase--
or maybe Solomon's seal, the petals
ranged in small toy pairs

or starry, tipped at the head like weeds.
They could be anonymous as weeds.
They are, in fact, the several names of the same thing,
lilies of the field, butter-and-eggs,

toadflax almost, the way the whites and yellows juxtapose,
and have "the look of flowers that are looked at,"
rooted as they are in water, glass, and air.
I remember the summer I picked everything,

flower and wildflower, singled them out in jars
with a name attached. And when they had dried as stubborn
as paper I put them on pages and named them again.
They were all lilies, even the hyacinth,

even the great pale flower in the hand of the dead.
I picked it, kept it in the book for years
before I knew who she was,
her face lily-white, kissed and dry and cold.

From Summer Celestial by Stanley Plumly. Copyright © 1983 by Stanley Plumly.

---
SciTim, Umberto Ecco wrote the ultimate and realistic monk-intrique nove: In the Name of the Rose

For a lighter romp, read Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael series of mysteries.


Posted by: CollegequaParkian | September 15, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Mudge --

S.P. reading
Constable's Clouds, for Keats

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20141

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | September 15, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

My favorite butler was Bunter. He didn't seem to be a bad guy, but he always seemed to be a step ahead of the boss, but never made it obvious.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I have observed, my lord, that on the few occasions when our sangfroid slips, it means we have a rendezvous with Miss Vane.

Posted by: russianthistle | September 15, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

dmd,
Your salvia looks a bit like S. greggii, which has been popular as a short-lived perennial here in Florida. Of course it's a commercial hybrid.

I've got quite a lot of Salvia coccinea in the yard right now. It's fairly good at producing seedlings, and healthy plants can last several years. The species has a huge natural distribution, apparently from South Carolina to Paraguay; these days, even British Columbia and Madagascar.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 15, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

CP! That's a fine poem. I have what may be toadflax in a pot. I thought it might be milkweed, so I let it grow. It has lovely yellow flowers, and I think it got into my pot by way of a wildflower mix, when I let it go to seed. I'm afraid it may be a noxious weed here. My zinnias and cosmos are just flowering now...they won't last much longer.

Posted by: seasea1 | September 15, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

No, what caused this disintegration in a usually fairly fluent prattler
with the sex was her whole mental attitude. I don't want to wrong
anybody, so I won't go so far as to say that she actually wrote poetry,
but her conversation, to my mind, was of a nature calculated to excite
the liveliest suspicions. Well, I mean to say, when a girl suddenly asks
you out of a blue sky if you don't sometimes feel that the stars are
God's daisy-chain, you begin to think a bit.

Posted by: Yoki | September 15, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, meant to say that is Bertie Wooster in Right Ho Jeeves, PG Wodehouse.

Posted by: Yoki | September 15, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I sniff wise Jeeves,
Polishing things black and white
With my chamois tongue

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 15, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Yoki, wasn't sure what that was about.

Mudge, the right wing has already latched on to that. I ran across a Mark Warner (D-VA)town hall on C-SPAN, where a woman told him she thought liberals wanted to use abortion as a way to control population growth. He denied it, but not very forcefully, not like Barney Frank would have. It's sad.

Posted by: seasea1 | September 15, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

God's daisy-chain lurks
down a nursing dog's belly
where gold puppies bloom.

-Wilbrodog-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | September 15, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Weed, I love Sayers! Never bothered with Dan Brown, why should I? I just bought Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, have to read it before book club next Tuesday, but that won't be a problem.

Dirda listed Gaudy Night as one of the seven best mysteries. I didn't recognize any of the other six, but it is a wonderful book. I like The Nine Tailors too, but I rang handbells, so it made sense to me.

Posted by: slyness | September 15, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Meaning no disrespect to Mr. Mervyn Bunter, former army batman, or the estimable career servant Reginald Jeeves, but my personal fave has always been Magersfontein Lugg, reformed burglar. And all these gentlemen are not butlers but "gentleman's gentlemen", valets.

Posted by: kguy1 | September 15, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Thank God you'll be in one yourself before too long, you bloody old fossil!

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

My mother thought The Name Of The Rose was non-fiction. She also thinks 'gullible' isn't in the dictionary.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Popping in to say hi.

Mudge, liked your list of what was *really* in his bookcase. Hate to say such a thing, but a bit of shrapnel through "Chesapeake" by Michener would seem somehow appropriate.

bc, if they toss in the non-existent metro station, they're going to have to toss in a really long staircase in Georgetown and say it's in Hyattsville.

*Tim, I'm reading that book now. As you know, I couldn't get past that violent part in The Stars My Destination, but The Forever War is going pretty well so far (even though I think he sort of brushed over the babe getting hurt; I know what he was aiming to convey, I just think he sort of called it in.) I also like A.C. (somebody Mallowan, or something like that) but was it ever the butler? Even once? Trying to recall, but think maybe once it was the upstairs maid, or maybe the scullery maid. But she took the job to be in place to commit the murder, right? In AC's world, murder was a crime committed by the privileged class.

Off to look at numbers. Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | September 15, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Now I realize what's wrong with my poetry. Not enough bellwort. I gotta have more bellwort. I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more bellwort.

FYI, my 3:13 was in response to Weed's 2:36. My apologies to any inadvertent interveners who may have taken umbrage. We were doing "Death on the Nile" and got a little carried away.

Couple of Boodlers having a little by-play over on the Dirda Reading Room blog.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Then there is Henry, the waiter who always solves the Black Widowers' mysteries.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I decided I wouldn't stomp through the high grass to investigate these purple wildflowers without bring some back so I did. I have no idea what they are named. (The orange jewelweed was easy to track down. It has a projectile seed with a natural spring made of plant flesh.)
http://jumpersbloghouse.blogspot.com/2009/09/fall-flowers.html

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

According to Cecil Adams, the butler rarely does it because his bad reputation precedes him.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2470/in-whodunits-its-the-butler-did-it-who-did-it-first

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I think the way to do it is to evaluate the number of characters in an A.C. novel and estimate the probability that any particular character is a murderer (Murder on the Orient Express will have an interesting influence on this calculation...), and estimate the number of characters who are butlers. I can then evaluate the probability that by pure random chance and individual would be both a butler and a murderer and use that probability to determine whether a disproportionate fraction of murderers are butlers. The null hypothesis "the butler ALWAYS did it" is, of course, readily refuted.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 15, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, those look like ageratum to me, maybe escaped from someone's garden. Not sure they have a wild ancestor. Haven't grown those in a long time.

Posted by: seasea1 | September 15, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Ageratum, yes, the floss flower. Comes in white and pale blue-lavender.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | September 15, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Ageratum would be my guess as well Jumper, I have some in one of my planters outside.

Posted by: dmd3 | September 15, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Looks like ageratum to me, Jumper. A tall one. When I've grown them, they never got that tall.

Posted by: slyness | September 15, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I thought it might be interregnum, but I was wrong.

Posted by: Yoki | September 15, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Katherine Weymouth says "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" and a depressing WaPoMag article dies.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/14/AR2009091403768.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I think I would defend Weymouth on this one.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 15, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I think interregnum is pretty rare these days, Yoki. You know, not many kings around to be between.

Posted by: slyness | September 15, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Here's the original article:

http://www.sportsshooter.com/news/2266

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm gonna go with Joel on this one. David
Finkel's book sounds much more worthy.

I think we all ought to wait before rushing out to get any more Dan Brown books. I predict this one is going to end up in the discount bins very soon, and I further predict that you'll be able to find it in the 2 buck bin just after Christmas.

Posted by: --dr-- | September 15, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I thought the idea that the "butler ALWAYS did it" was accurate, just not speaking to murders.

Posted by: LostInThought | September 15, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Looking at my library account, I'm 261 in line for the Dan Brown book. I'm up to 9th for the newest Thomas Pynchon and 'How I Became A Famous Novelist' is ready for pick-up.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I've never had an interest in reading Dan Brown, so I would pass by even the 15-cent bins with his books in them.

Looks like the weather predictors were right. Earlier this morning it was quite lovely outside, blue sky and all. Now it looks like the heavens will open up almost immediately. That I am inside is an advantage, but it still looks on this-side-of-evil outside.

When I was a kid, I used to be fascinated by how the tree leaves seemed to have turned upside down and backwards in the advance of a thunderstorm, and how the sky would turn all green and yellow and then dark with the rain-filled clouds. I thought it was cool to be out in those storms, a feeling soon set right by "Parent" (whichever one would take me by the collar and hoist my presence into the house first). I remain fascinated by the workings (or not, alas) of Mother Nature. She won't be messed around with, no matter what. Wish all "those folks" (and we know who they are) wouldn't mess about with Her.

Geez. It's 5 o'clock already! Where has the day gone???

Posted by: -ftb- | September 15, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Howdy!

Zinnias! I think I've mentioned the aluminum zinnias. For a year or two when I was a child my mother and a ladies' group endlessly made zinnias out of beer cans and soda cans, washed and flattened then cut with whatever you cut those things with, petal layer by painstaking petal layer, then assembled into flowers and spray-painted. We had tiny aluminum debris all over the dining room floor.

Lugg! I like Lord Wimsey very much but my heart belongs to Albert Campion.

Pynchon! Just read the latest. It is unusually accessible for a Pynchon novel of late, but still recognizably Pynchon and very good.

Cassandra! I tried email but haven't heard back yet. Can anyone call her?

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 15, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

It irritated me (well, just a little) in the Weymouth piece that it said that editors agreed she wasn't involved, when it seems to me it should have said they confirmed she wasn't involved.

Posted by: LostInThought | September 15, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

The wisdom of the Boodle comes through! Thanks all! The photo I used was actually after they were picked, in a vase. But the ones in the field are at least 3 - 4 feet in height. I'd say it's
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ageratum_houstonianum

They say it is prone to being an invasive weed. It's an annual if I'm right.

I resisted the urge to photograph my morning glories. However, we have some unusual tiny orange morning glories around here, and there seem to be no photos on the internet. I had better go get a shot of some of them, so people don't think I'm crazy.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Jumper -- do think that ship might have sailed? (kidding, really)

I'm concerned about Cassandra, too. Slyness, do you have her number?

Posted by: -ftb- | September 15, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I've allowed Ageratum into my yard. I may regret it.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | September 15, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Wilson got rebuked by the House -- a mere slap on the wrist, but in the record nevertheless.

Plus ça change, eh?

Posted by: -ftb- | September 15, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

As a matter of a fact, I do, ftb. With her hearing issues, it's difficult to talk on the phone, but I was thinking I should give her a call, just to check in.

Posted by: slyness | September 15, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Hi all... just getting around the backboodling. Quite a lively discussion and so typically booldle-ish.

Yello... hate to break it to you, but the original Five Guys was not in Alexandria. It was in the Westmont Shopping center at Glebe Rd and Columbia Pike in South Arlington. We used to live nearby and would go over there when we had a hungo for good burgers on great buns (they got their buns from Brenner's Bakery right next door). I don't think that Five Guys is there anymore.

Posted by: -TBG- | September 15, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

TBG,
That's all right. The original Ben and Jerry's isn't there any more either. When we went to the factory last summer, I swear it had moved from where we visited in 1986 on our honeymoon but we couldn't find any employees or guides old enough to confirm that.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

hi dna girl

Posted by: omnigood | September 15, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

what do you get when take the co out of copy?

Posted by: omnigood | September 15, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow, that excerpt is amazing. So many great books out there waiting to be read.

That anecdote makes me think about George Orwell after a bullet went cleanly through his throat during the Spanish Civil War. The doctors told him that if the bullet had veered a millimeter to either side he would have been dead, and that he, therefore, was a very lucky man.

To which George is alleged to have pointed out that if he had truly been lucky the bullet would have missed him altogether.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | September 15, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes, RD... After my mom's brain surgery to remove the tumor there, a nurse commented that we were very lucky that my husband is a neuropsychologist. I gave her basically that same reply.

Posted by: -TBG- | September 15, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Wow, crazy day, concluding with a rousing presentation to a bunch of very fine folks, telling them essentially, "prepare to be villfied by people who won't understand the great service you're providing!"

They took it well, I think.

And I'd really forgotten just how distinctly boring bachelor life can be... *SIGHHHH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 15, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that Wilson's censorship is enough, ftb, it's fine, he's a deadbeat, he's is SC problem, it's time to move on. Move on to the glorious poem CqP boodled, it is a poem to dwell in, tarry awhile, consider a bit. Stanley Plumly. A Marylander.

Speaking of gay zinnias, I have several pots still boldly blooming vivid orange blossoms for our butterflies and hummingbirds. They are clipped to the railing of our sunny deck, with purple and white butterfly bushes in large pot, sitting on the deck floor close by. (will be planted in the ground the fall.)

Nicest surprise for me was six feet tall thick stalks with Mexican sunflowers, planted in large pot, marvelous orange with gold centers.

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&source=hp&q=mexican+sunflowers&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=OhuwSp_xKuC3tweS_umeCA&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=4

The monarch butterflies and the irredescent (sp) green hummingbirds spend a lot of time on those blossoms, as well as the goldfinch, who like to rip off the petals and eat them. Pretty birds, tho. Anyway, the pots are all close together, in a sunny corner. They all come to feed on the plants around lunch time, so we try to join them for lunch with our human food.

Posted by: VintageLady | September 15, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Jumper -- I would bet you have "Orange Clock Vine", also known as "Black Eyed Susan Vine." Check it out at Google Images.

Posted by: nellie4 | September 15, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

"Orange Clock Vine" does a good job of looking like miniature morning glories. I've grown them in the past, but long ago -- I recall they were easy to grow in the sun, and climbed quite high.

Posted by: nellie4 | September 15, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm #327 in the library queue for the Guernsey book. There are 92 copies, though, so maybe it won't be too long. I just finished Dreaming in Hindi, which is pretty interesting. It's about a woman who goes to India to learn the Hindi language (non-fiction). I had a somewhat hard time following it, not sure why. She doesn't write in a particularly straightforward style, and a lot of it is about the disorientation she felt. The bits about second language acquisition were interesting, and she also writes about sign language.

Posted by: seasea1 | September 15, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

When the ScienceGrandpa was shot during a semi-successful robbery and car-jacking in St. Louis, about 30 minutes after he said goodbye for my freshman year of college (he was robbed, but they weren't too good at driving a stick, so he kept the car), the ER doctor got to tell the entire joke. "You were very lucky," he said; holding his fingers about an inch apart, "coulda been that much luckier."

It was an exciting start to the emotional roller-coaster of college.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 15, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gearheads (I hope that's not a slur) I heard a radio program at noon today on WYPR (88.1) about an effort to bring Grand Prix racing to Baltimore for Labo(u)r Day two years from now. Apparently it takes that long to put together. As I remember it, the route is through downtown -- Pratt St., Light St. to the Science place on the waterfront and then to the stadiums (stadia?) with a couple of U turns that the promoters said makes it more exciting.

BC, do you think that's viable or A Good Thing?

Posted by: rickoshea1 | September 15, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

I was wondering how long it would take for me to be stung by a bee while painting the house. Today a very angry one got me twice. I'm fine but it hurts like the devil.

Finally Jimmy Carter acknowledged the elephant in the room on national TV. So now the racism charge is out there, let's see if it gets addressed in a mature manner or if the Rethugs act like their usual classy selves.

Posted by: badsneakers | September 15, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Da boss is upfront and center on the homepage:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/15/AR2009091503435.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: slyness | September 15, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Silly Google. It was here all along. Orange Morning Glories:
http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/55107/

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that white Southern crazed people are natural allies of crazed Taliban people. If they get together, team up as they say, we could be in a world of hurt.

Posted by: Jumper1 | September 15, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

New kit.

Posted by: DNA_Girl | September 15, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

NEW Kit!

I'm probably late with this.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 15, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

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